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Tribes denounce wanton violations of mining, IPRA laws

More than 30 Mamanwa tribal leaders accused on Tuesday mining firms operating within their ancestral domain areas in Claver, Surigao del Norte of blatantly violating their rights and environment under Mining Act of 1995 and the Indigenous People Rights Act or IPRA law.

The tribal leaders claim that, aside from no free prior, informed and consent or FPIC, which lead to no Memorandum of Agreement, a pre-requisite before mining firms are allowed to set foot on their ancestral lands.

Mamanwa tribesmen claimed their farms, sacred places like Mamanwa burial and worship areas were allegedly destroyed due to mining activities.

“We were promised full compensation of our farms, aside from sacred places destroyed, but Oriental Synergy Mining Corporation have not yet paid us until now”, Mamanwa tribal leader Reynante Buklas told an audience during a dialogue held at Inland Resort on Tuesday.

The dialogue was solely sponsored by Caraga Indigenous People Management Development Corporation (CIPMDC) created by millionaire businessman and philanthropist Engineer Sergio Pascual who was given special power of attorney by the Mamanwa tribes of Claver, Surigao del Norte as their attorney-in-fact.

Pascual personally foot the bill of all expenses at Inland Resort, including transportation, lodging and meal expenses of nearly 100 Mamanwa tribesmen and their leaders from Claver, Surigao del Norte, some 150 kilometers from Butuan City, who attended the dialogue.

Pascual, lawyer Vincent Fortun and former Butuan City Councilor Roldan Torralba explained during dialogue that under Mining Act of 1995 and Indigenous Peoples’ Rights Act (IPRA), before mining firms set foot on ancestral lands’ soil and install facilities and equipment, a free prior information and consent or consultation must be done, and then a Memorandum of Agreement be signed by all agreeing parties before any mining operations start.

They were wondering why mining firms like Oriental Synergy Mining Corporation (OSMC) and Platinum Group Metals Corporation (PGMC) were allowed to operate by concerned government agencies like the Bureau of Mines and Geo-Sciences (MGB), issued ECC or Environment Compliance Certificate (ECC) by the Environmental Management Bureau (EMB) and the DENR without following official requirements set by laws.

Official records obtained by the lumads showed that the government issued small-scale mining permits to OSMC in 2006 and granted large-scale mining permit to said mining firm only this year. On the other hand, Platinum Group of Metals Corporation (PGMC) acquired its large-scale mining permit in 2006.

OSMC Resident Manager Jerry Higdon and OSMC Community Relations Officer Weng Mangacop presented five-page documents during the dialogue they claimed to be a Memorandum of Agreement they signed with the Mamanwa tribes.

But lawyers Torralba and Fortun claimed the document presented was not a MOA but a compliance certificate claiming the community has given its consent for mining operation and that processes were followed.

The two stressed that under Mining and IPRA laws, a Memorandum of Agreement, a pre-requisite before government will approve the ECC and MPSA, must be signed by all parties concerned especially by affected, host lumad communities and that it must be written in language understandable or understood by the tribesmen.

The document presented by OSMC officials by which PNA got a copy was written in English and titled Compliance Certificate with sub-title Certificate of Compliance to the FPIC process and Certification that the community has given its consent signed by then acting NCIP Chairperson Jannette Cansing Serrano on October 12, 2006 in Quezon City.

According to Mamanwa tribesmen, aside from OSMC and PGMC, two other mining firms with approved mining permits, Taganito Mining Corporation (TMC) and Case Mining Corporation are operating within their ancestral domain areas in Claver, Surigao del Norte.

Only representatives from OSMC and PGMC were present. From the government side, only NCIP representatives were present at the dialogue.

The government, through the National Commission on Indigenous People (NCIP) which is under the Office of the President, has issued Certificate of Ancestral Domain Title (CADT) to the Mamanwa tribes in 1997.

Mamanwa tribes alleged that aside from social services such as provision of education, health care, social housing after they were displaced due to mining activities and others promised by the mining companies to them, nothing has truly materialized yet.

“They destroyed the forest and seas which is source of our livelihood, they desecrated our sacred places like burial and worship grounds. What is left to us were dust from huge mining trucks that pass us, causing illness to our children and elders,” concludes Datus Reynante Buklas, Joel Buklas and Alfredo Olorico in their parting statements in local dialects at the dialogue Tuesday. (BS/PNA)

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